The UK government's imaginative use of evidence to make policy



Cairney P (2019) The UK government's imaginative use of evidence to make policy. British Politics, 14 (1), pp. 1-22.

It is easy to show that the UK Government rarely conducts ‘evidence-based policymaking’, but not to describe a politically feasible use of evidence in Westminster politics. Rather, we need to understand developments from a policymaker’s perspective before we can offer advice to which they will pay attention. ‘Policy based evidence’ (PBE) is a dramatic political slogan, not a way to promote pragmatic discussion. We need to do more than declare PBE if we seek to influence the relationship between evidence and policymaking. To produce more meaningful categories we need clearer criteria which take into account the need to combine evidence, values, and political judgement. To that end, I synthesize policy theories to identify the limits to the use of evidence in policy, and case studies of ‘families policies’ to show how governments use evidence politically.

evidence-based policy; policy-based evidence; troubled families policy; earlyintervention; Westminster politics

British Politics: Volume 14, Issue 1

Publication date31/03/2019
Publication date online05/01/2018
Date accepted by journal02/10/2017
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan

People (1)


Professor Paul Cairney

Professor Paul Cairney

Professor, Politics